When in its prime (a vast majority of Seasons 1-9), 'Midsomer Murders' was a great show and one that is watched and re-watched frequently. Seasons 10-13 became more uneven, with three of the show's worst episodes coming from Seasons 11 and 13, but there were a few solid episodes and "Blood Wedding" and especially "Master Class" were gems.
After John Nettles retired and Neil Dudgeon and the new character of John Barnaby took over, 'Midsomer Murders' just hasn't been the same on the most part. For every odd good episode, there were also bad ones with particular low-points being "Echoes of the Dead" and "Night of the Stag". Season 19 on the most part has generally been one of the better John Barnaby-era seasons, but after starting off very well and continuing that standard for 4 of its 6 episodes the last two episodes, of which "Death By Persuasion" is one, were disappointing.
There is a good deal to like about "Death By Persuasion" still certainly. The production values cannot be faulted as usual. It's beautifully and atmospherically shot with suitably picturesque scenery. The music fits perfectly, with some lush jauntiness and sometimes an ominous quality, and the haunting theme tune is one of the most memorable and instantly recognisable of the genre.
Some of the atmosphere at times is suitably creepy, it starts off on a stylish note, the Jane Austen atmosphere and references are fun and most of the acting is good. Nick Hendrix is likable and he works quite well with Dudgeon Barnaby and Winter's partnership gels a little better than Barnaby's previous partners and isn't as condescending.
Betty is adorable as is the dog (although no Sykes, who is missed). Fiona Dolman has been growing on me since her and Barnaby's relationship was made warmer, though their subplot is still on the clichéd side. The supporting performances are generally good, particularly from Claire Skinner. Quite liked the pathologist too, very appealingly played and perhaps the best pathologist since Dr Bullard, being a non-fan of bland Kate and especially cold fish Kam.
On the other hand, things do get ridiculous once Barnaby and Winter don fancy dress where the atmosphere goes and it becomes less interesting. The writing lacks tightness and can get awkward and not developed enough. Neil Dudgeon fails to generate much warmth or engagement as Barnaby and can come over as wooden.
Furthermore, the story is mostly a convoluted mess of too many hard to follow elements, too much going on, clichéd subplots that are in some cases thrown in, loose ends, under-explained and incomplete-feeling crucial plot points, a lot of strangeness and ridiculousness (especially the drones, which were afterthought-like and explanations for their use and such were barely there).
Much of it doesn't make much sense and my comprehension tends to be fine watching 'Midsomer Murders' but too much of "Death By Persuasion" confused me. The denouement is far too rushed, crammed in with just over ten minutes to go with no signs of how the conclusion was gotten to, with the identity of the killer and motive feeling like they were thrown in at last minute with little thought as to whether they made sense and properly explored (neither of which the case).
In conclusion, disappointing, starting off well with good points but generally far too rushed, over-stuffed and convoluted. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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